Monday, September 24, 2012

Conservative NYT Columnist Ross Douthat’s Column Show Why Despite the Pain This Forum Reads What Conservative Write

Against All Odds Mr. Douthat Has a Thoughtful Commentary

The New York Times, in its ongoing efforts to be fair employs two major Conservative opinion writers, David Brooks and Ross Douthat.  Most of the time most of the writing is so bad it is a painful chore to read.  But The Dismal Political Economist keeps reading because every once in a while the opinions are actually right on target.

Such is the case with this recent column by Mr. Douthat.  His subject is Washington, not the general, not the government, but the city itself.  He notes that unlike much of the rest of the country, Washington and its surrounding environs in Virginia and Maryland have mightily prospered.

No doubt there were boomtowns in the 19th-century Wild West that changed faster than D.C. did over the ensuing decade. But the changes to Washington have been staggering to watch. High-rises have leaped up, office buildings have risen, neighborhoods have been transformed. Streets once deserted after dusk are now crowded with restaurants and bars. A luxurious waterfront area is taking shape around the stadium that the playoff-bound Nationals call home. Million-dollar listings abound in neighborhoods that 10 years ago were transitional at best.

And that’s just inside the District proper. Cross the bridges into Virginia or shoot north into Maryland, and you’ll find concentrations of wealth greater than in the richest counties around New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco. Last week, new census data revealed that 7 of the 10 richest American counties in 2011 were in the Washington, D.C., region. Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington Counties, all in Northern Virginia, have higher median incomes than every other county in the United States.

The source of this wealth is obvious.

Whence comes this wealth? Mostly from Washington’s one major industry: the federal government. Not from direct federal employment, which has risen only modestly of late, but from the growing armies of lobbyists and lawyers, contractors and consultants, who make their living advising and influencing and facilitating the public sector’s work.

and at this point one would expect Mr. Douthat to spew the traditional Conservative position about how Democrats have caused this with their huge government spending.  But Mr. Douthat rightly observes that this is a bi-partisan phenomena.

This growth is a bipartisan affair. It’s been driven by the contracting-out of government services under both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (as Andrew Ferguson put it in a wonderful Time magazine essay on the new Washington, “government hasn’t shrunk; it’s just changed clothes”); by the Bush-era security buildup, whose ripples are spreading to this day (witness the new Department of Homeland Security facility intended for still-impoverished Anacostia); and by the bright young college graduates who flooded the city at the dawn of Barack Obama’s presidency and the lobbyists who followed to claim a piece of his attempt at a new New Deal.

Mr. Douthat comments that Mr. Obama has not made things better, and maybe made things worse, which in this aspect of his administration is true. And he laments the fact that Mitt Romney is not campaigning to make things better, which he isn't.  And though he doesn’t say it, apparently he gets the fact that the Federal government doesn’t do a lot, it just spends a lot, almost all of it in the private sector. And so his conclusion is right on.

In reality, our government isn’t running trillion-dollar deficits because we’re letting the working class get away with not paying its fair share. We’re running those deficits because too many powerful interest groups have a stake in making sure the party doesn’t stop.

When you look around the richest precincts of today’s Washington, you don’t see a city running on paternalism or dependency. You see a city running on exploitation.

As for the future, no matter who is elected, no one expects this trend to reverse itself.  Hence the justifiable despair among many voters over the choices in the election. 

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